Committee OKs cab fare hike 

Mayor signals opposition to increase, which would up ‘flag drop’ by 25 cents Nov. 1

The cost of simply entering a San Francisco taxicab could increase by 25 cents Nov. 1.

Already among the highest in the nation, taxi riders pay an initial $2.85 upon entering the taxi. The fee, commonly referred to as a "flag drop," would increase to $3.10 if the Board of Supervisors approves the hike on Tuesday.

The price will become the second highest in the nation, only 10 cents below the flag drop of Las Vegas taxicabs.

The hike was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee.

The committee’s decision went against the wishes of Mayor Gavin Newsom, who sent a letter Wednesday to the committee advising against any increase.

"I believe that increasing taxi fares will discourage local residents from using taxis, which represent an important part of our City’s Transit First policy," Newsom said in the letter. "Additionally, fare hikes increasingly make taxis accessible only to the wealthy in our city." If approved next week, Newsom would have 10 days to veto it.

The City’s Taxicab Commission said fare increases are necessary to keep up with inflation and to cover the cost of the skyrocketing gas prices.

Last month, supervisors rejected a proposal by the commission to raise the flag drop by 75 cents, saying it has not lived up to its four-year-old promise of creating a health care plan for the cabdrivers.

There are about 7,000 San Francisco taxicab drivers and none receive health care coverage from their employers.

The Board of Supervisors last approved fare increases in 2002 with the promise that a health care plan would be created. This approval hiked the flag drop by 35 cents, beginning in 2003. The board also increased the per-1/5-mile charge from 40 cents to 45 cents and the per-minute waiting time charge from 40 cents to 45 cents.

Cabdriver Tariq Mehmood said the increase "will take away customers." But healso worried that when it comes time to fund the health care proposal, "the public would not like two increases back to back."

Mychael Monroe, a cabdriver for 13 years, said a fare increase and the health care plan "shouldn’t be tied together." Drivers deserve a fare increase, she said.

"Drivers went from paying $20, $25 a night in gas to paying $40 and $50 in gas," Monroe said.

The committee’s approval Wednesday also included the stipulation that if the Taxicab Commission submits a health care proposal by April 1, a hearing would be scheduled to consider additional fare increases.

"What we have been doing over the last four years has proven no results," said Supervisor Chris Daly, who chairs the committee. "What were about to do today we will have results in six months."

jsabatini@examiner.com

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